Young Athletes and Elbow Pain

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Understanding Medial Elbow Pain: Causes and Tips for Young Athletes

Elbow pain can be a concerning issue for young athletes, particularly those involved in activities like baseball/softball pitching and exercising simultaneously. If your young ones are experiencing pain on the medial (inner) side of their elbow, it is essential to address the issue promptly and provide them with the information to understand why this may be occurring. Let’s look at the common causes of medial elbow pain, discuss the potential impact of pitching and weightlifting, and offer some tips to help manage and prevent such pain in young athletes.

Medial elbow pain often stems from repetitive stress and overuse, particularly in activities that involve repetitive throwing motions or excessive strain on the elbow joint. One common condition associated with medial elbow pain is called medial epicondylitis, also known as “little league elbow.” This condition involves inflammation and micro-tearing of the tendons on the inner side of the elbow. Other potential causes include ulnar collateral ligament sprains or tears, nerve compression, or muscle imbalances.

Pitching in baseball can put significant stress on the elbow joint, especially when proper technique and rest periods are not followed. The repetitive throwing motion, combined with high velocities and incorrect form (side arming), can lead to excessive strain on the tendons and ligaments in the medial side of the elbow. Over time, this can result in pain, inflammation, and potential injury. It’s crucial for young pitchers to be mindful of their technique, follow appropriate warm-up and cool-down routines, and prioritize rest days to allow their bodies to recover.

Weightlifting, particularly exercises that involve gripping and pulling motions, can also contribute to medial elbow pain. Movements like chin-ups, bicep curls, and rows place stress on the tendons and ligaments in the inner elbow. Like pitching, improper form, excessive weight-lifting, and inadequate rest can increase the risk of developing pain and injury. Encourage your child to focus on proper lifting technique, avoid overloading the muscles too quickly, and allow for sufficient rest and recovery between workout sessions also coordinating with sports allowing proper rest.

Tips for Managing and Preventing Medial Elbow Pain:

  1. Rest and Recovery: It is crucial for you to guide your children to listen to their bodies and take appropriate rest periods. Adequate rest allows the tissues in the elbow to heal and recover from the stress placed on them during pitching and weightlifting. Encourage them to take regular breaks, alternate activities, and have rest days to prevent overuse.
  2. Proper Technique: Emphasize the importance of using proper technique and form in both pitching and weightlifting. Incorrect mechanics can place unnecessary stress on the elbow joint, increasing the risk of injury. Consider seeking guidance from a qualified coach, trainer, or physical therapist to ensure your child is using correct form.
  3. Strengthening and Conditioning: Incorporate a comprehensive strengthening and conditioning program that focuses on building strength in the muscles surrounding the elbow joint. This can help provide better support and stability, reducing the strain on the medial side of the elbow.
  4. Warm-up and Stretching: Prioritize a thorough warm-up routine before engaging in any physical activity. This helps prepare the muscles, tendons, and ligaments for the demands of pitching or weightlifting. Include stretches that target the forearm, wrist, and elbow to improve flexibility and range of motion.

Most important is to listen to your children and validate their concerns by talking about it.  As a parent of a 14-year-old child going through this presently, I am leading him through these tips and learning how to rest different body parts.  If your child continues to show concern, it is important to follow up with a health-care professional to evaluate the need for any other care.

— This article is written by Aaron Workman, DC, one of the members of Chambers Medical Group’s team of car accident chiropractors who offer a variety of treatments and therapies ranging from diagnostic testing to various soft tissue therapies for car accidents and injuries in Kentucky.










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